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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

What to look for in fully cooked meats

By Melissa Boncher, Hy-Vee Dietitian | Oct 05, 2017

Whether you’ve got kids to feed or you’re cooking for yourself, who’s not searching for something new, something convenient and healthy? Fully cooked meats can be a great option that can deliver convenience, flavor and a nice protein punch with a list of ingredients that won’t scare you away.

Do minimally processed meats actually exist?

Yes. But with so many options in the fully cooked meat section, the wide variety of flavors, ingredients and “healthy” claims, deciding what to choose can be overwhelming.

If you’re willing to read the labels, you can find “clean” and flavorful, convenient, ready-to-eat meats. When it comes to fully cooked poultry, look for items without mechanically separated poultry or rib meat — which is usually the fattier and less expensive cut of chicken than full, boneless chicken breasts. Also seek meats that are free of added MSG and fillers (such as cornstarch, rice bran, etc.).

This month at Hy-Vee stores, a new product from Johnsonville — yes, the company most known for its sausage — is our Dietitian Pick of the Month. This fully cooked chicken product is made with no artificial colors, preservatives or flavors, fillers or MSG, packs great flavor and 18 grams of protein in one portion. Because it is also grilled over an open flame and sealed in individual portions, this new chicken product isn’t your typical dry, bland poultry item. Better yet, it can be microwaved and ready to eat in under 60 seconds.


Storing and serving

fully cooked meats

Before you purchase any fresh or fully cooked meat product, be sure to observe the “best by” or “serve by” date stamped on the package. This is important not only to make sure you’re not buying an expired product, but also to make sure you’ll have time to enjoy the product at its optimal flavor.

If you find a fully cooked meat product in your refrigerator a week past the “best by” date, it’s usually fine to consume as long as there wasn’t some major temperature abuse that occurred, but the flavor may not be at its optimum.


Pack more protein

with chicken

Protein has topped many health headlines the last several years. It’s necessary to build and repair muscle, increase fat-burning metabolism and slow the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream so sudden spikes in blood sugar are prevented. To calculate your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein intake, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. For a 50-year-old woman who weighs 140 pounds and who is sedentary (doesn’t exercise), that translates into 50 grams of protein a day. Heat up one portion size of the Johnsonville Flame Grilled Chicken (choose from Garlic & Herb or Teriyaki), and you’ve added 18 grams of protein in one serving. Dice up one 3 oz. portion, toss on a salad with broccoli and quinoa, and you’ve got 29 grams of protein in one meal!


Johnsonville Flame Grilled Southwestern Chicken Soup

Serves: 5 to 7

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 min-



All you need:

1 package (9 oz) Johnsonville Flame Grilled Southwestern Seasoned or Johnsonville Flame Grilled Black Pepper and Sea Salt Chicken Breasts, diced

2 cans (14-1/2 oz each) chicken broth

1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes with green chilies

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 packages (14 oz each) frozen Southwest blend vegetable mix (corn, black beans, poblano peppers, red peppers and onions)

1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce

1 envelope (1-1/4 oz) taco seasoning

Wonton strips, optional

Shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Sour cream, optional


All you do:

1. In a saucepan, combine the chicken, chicken broth, tomatoes, cilantro, Southwest blend vegetable mix, tomato sauce and taco seasoning.

2. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

3. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 5 minutes or until heated through.

4. Serve with wonton strips, cheese and sour cream, if desired.

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